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Ordinarity Speaking

How do we celebrate our mundane days? Those days of ordinarity when there is little to spark our soul and time trundles on like subway rides. Most days are ordinary. But if we make the effort to look, there’s a lot of extraordinary in routine. We might even find tremendous relief to know our lives are mostly steeped in the expected.

While we long for cavernous spirits and colossal emotions honed from restful meditation retreats in India and breathtaking climbs atop the snow-capped terrains of Canada, should we not pause and be thankful, too, for the wonderous stability of life? Should we not be grateful that our loved ones remain healthy and cancer-free today as they were yesterday, and will be so tomorrow? That they live rather than die tragically in accidents? That we have work that sustains our savings and pays for next year’s bills? That today, our home stands solid – not felled by a hurricane or a seismic event - and will remain so for many days to come?

Too often, our imagination strays to the grandiose. We are especially prone to this at year’s end when we are asked to make resolutions for the new year. And so we list ambitions, travels, projects and aspirations, all far-reaching and possibly unattainable, knowing we’ll spend the new year lapsing on those items.

We forget, or let ourselves forget, that ordinarity – a rare yet existent English word depicting the property of being ordinary – compels celebration too. Ordinarity can provide so much goodness: satisfaction and contentment. It can even remove unwanted neuroses: worry, anxiety, depression. Lest we believe ordinarity is the basest form of ambition, try sitting with contentment for five minutes, muttering silently our thanks for this body, this health, this stasis and this unchanging peace. See if our minds wander into distraction and longing for more dazzle. Chances are, we’re already there in the stratosphere of hoping. Dreaming. Planning. Aspiring. Being grounded somehow feels geriatric. A zoomer always wants more. The millennial makes magic. X stands for Generation Extra. And the boomers? Well, boom and they’re over, right?

The social construct for ordinarity can be very poisonous to wellbeing. Realizing this, and practicing to embrace the ordinary, can be extraordinarily freeing. It doesn’t make us less accomplished. We can continue to be careerists, writers, schemers, politicians, entrepreneurs and tycoons. At the same time, we can learn to give thanks to what doesn’t change, what we have, what we haven’t lost and what we nearly always miss. That baseline reference to life provides perspective. It makes us less grasping. It may even give pleasure.

Jason Leow

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